James Rattray

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Frontispiece of his book published in 1847

James Rattray (1818 – 24 October 1854) was a soldier and artist, born in Daventry, Northamptonshire, England,[1] who died at Dorundah, in the Ranchi Division,[2] Nagpore, India.[3] At the time of making his notable sketches he was a 2nd Lieutenant and (Artist) in the 2nd Grenadiers, Bengal Army, serving in Afghanistan.[4]

Early life[edit]

In Great Britain. His father was a physician, Charles Rattray M.D. (1779–1835) of Northamptonshire, and Mariane Freeman (1788–1866).[5]


He had a good command of Persian and could speak directly with the local people.[6]


Brown began his career as a soldier.

He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 5 Dec 1838, the date of the sailing out of Gravesend on Severn, a West Indiaman.[7] This ship was later that same year abandoned at sea (mid Atlantic) on 29 December 1838 with 16 ft. of water in her hold on a voyage from Miramichi in Canada for Bristol.[8]

He followed and served with his older brother by 8 years Charles Rattray (1810–1841)[9] who was a Captain in the same period in Afghanistan.[10]

He spent some time in the Hindustan.[11] Rattray was part of a combined force known as the Army of the Indus. He was a Lieutenant in the 2nd Grenadiers, Bengal Army.[12] He took part in the first Afghan War, from 1839 to 1842.

Tomb of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 1839–40

He was in Ghazni in 1839–40. The picture, right, depicts the final resting place of Mahmud of Ghazni. The artist in Rattray was in love with this particular spot (Tomb of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni ) and viewed it as one of the most charming places in Afghanistan.

His brother, Lieutenant Charles Rattray, 20th N.I. (Native Infantry) acting as Major Eldred Pottinger's assistant, was assassinated on 3 November 1841 on duty at Lughmani, near Charikar, in the Kabul valley, at .[13][14][15]

James was in Khandahar in December 1841[16]

He helped man the rearguard during the army's 1842 retreat from Kabul from Kabul to Peshawar. They entered the Khyber Pass from Jamrud. Their mission to take the fortress of Ali Masjid, popularly known as the Key of the Pass, which dominated the road and was garrisoned by Dost Mohammed's troops. Rattray had scarcely completed sketching, "when suddenly a report was heard, and, to my utter astonishment, walls and bastions composing the fortress blew up simultaneously in the air, like a whirlwind of sand; and so completely was it swept off from the summit of the mountain, that when the dense cloud cleared away not a vestige of the building remained."

Rattray undertook several tours of the region, after leaving the Army.[17]

Another brother Captain Thomas Rattray (1820–1880) raised the 1st Bengal Military Police Battalion in April 1856, at Lahore, later re-named the 45th Rattray's Sikhs.


He died on 24 October 1854, at age 36, at Dorundah, Nagpore, India.[18] On his death he was a Captain in the Indian Army, he died a bachelor, leaving no heirs. The executor of his estate was his brother Major David Rattray (1814–1874) of the Devonshire Militia, residing in Tiverton, Devon.


His works are in the following collections:


He is the author of Scenery, Inhabitants & Costumes, of Afghaunistaun from drawings made on the spot by James Rattray. Artist: James Rattray 1818–1854, Lithographer: Robert Carrick, Published by Day & Son in 1847. A second edition was published the next year in London: by Hering & Remington, 137 Regent street, 1848.

The artist dedicated this collection to the Kandahar Force that he belonged under the command of Major-General Sir William Nott,G.C.B., and the British and Indian Army officers who participated in the war.

His sketches and drawings were made into Lithographs mainly by the lithographer and engraver Robert C. Carrick.[20] Other lithographers were Edmund Walker Plate nos. 2, 19, 20, 22, 24, and 25; landscape artist and lithographer William L. Walton Plate nos. 13 and 18, and Plate no. 21 by Frederick William Hulme, all employed by the publisher.

W. L. Walton was a landscape artist, working in London, who exhibited between 1834 and 1855. He also made the lithographic plates for General Sale's Defence of Jalalabad (c. 1845).).[21]

Among the subscribers for the publication were Prince Albert, and several Rattray family members, including Capt. Charles Rattray, Pol. Agt., Turkestan; Capt. Rattray R.N.; Capt. D. Rattray, Prince Albert's Light Infantry; Lieut. T. Rattray, BNI.

Each colour plate is accompanied by a lengthy explanatory texts (commentaries), delving into detailed vivid depictions of the people, their clothing, habits, occupations. Topics relating to historical and ethnohistorical interest are described, such as the forms of worship at tombs and mosques, and the imperial rituals of the Dorranis. Verbatim excerpts of some of these texts can be found on the British Library website.




  1. ^ "James Rattray". Ancestry. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Unrelated article prove the location,look to Google search". Strausstown Roots. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Probbate record". Ancestry. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ "James Rattray". National Army Museum. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  5. ^ "Parents". Ancestry. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  6. ^ "Rattray exhibition "Splendid Afghanistan 1848": (Japan)". Japanese Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Calcutta Monthly". Google Books. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  8. ^ Farr, Graham E. (1950). Records of Bristol Ships, 1800–1838 (vessels Over 150 Tons). Bristol Record Society. p. 39. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Charles Rattray". Ancestry. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Captain Rattray". British Library. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  11. ^ "Ladies of Kabul". History of Pashtuns. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  12. ^ "Dost Mahommed, King of Caubul, and his youngest son". British Library. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  13. ^ "Captain Rattray killed". British Museum. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  14. ^ "Siege of Charikar". fibis. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  15. ^ "Officers Killed – Afghanistan 1838–42". Tripod. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Pashtun Culture and History". Pashtun Culture and History. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Later journeys". Dreweatts Auctions. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Probbate record". Ancestry. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  19. ^ "Dost Mahommed King of Caubul and his Youngest Son". National Army Museum. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Robert C. Carrick". British Library. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  21. ^ "W. L. Walton and General Sale's Defence of Jalalbad (c. 1845)". Leicester Galleries. Retrieved 21 January 2017.

External links[edit]